Day 149 (of 184) Spelling Bees and other ‘choice competitions’
Here is the hypocrisy of me. I hate spelling tests. Loathe awards ceremonies that don’t have clearly established and understood criteria (best athlete? best academic? improved??). Yet I like competition…
To be specific, I like ‘choice competitions’. Where the participants ‘choose’ to take part and have their abilities compared, analyzed and assessed. I have been to many dance competitions where scores are arrived at in very subjective and mysterious methodologies. I have taken part (as player and coach) in football teams where descriptive feedback may be described as ‘a tad harsh’ and perhaps even ‘very blunt’. Yet smiles were everywhere as learners and their ‘teacher/coaches’ were doing things they had a passion for.
Today I took part in a spelling bee…
I like to think that I’m a very progressive educator – having long ago swapped spelling lists for making words strategies and ‘passed’ on mad minutes in exchange for hands on explorations in math. But there is something that draws me back to spelling bees, science fairs, and other learning-competitions. With the caveat that it is the individuals choice and option to take part.
I either volunteered (or maybe I was volunteered) for the spelling bee – something I don’t mind as I’ve always been a pretty good speller (and this was a fund raising fun-focused event). The key was it was my choice.
The best results I have seen in “Science Fairs” (aka learning fairs, historica events, etc etc etc) has been where there is choice choice in both what was learned & how they presented it AND whether or not it ‘went public’. I have seen some very interesting representations of learning that I wanted to ‘push forward’ but didn’t as the learner wasn’t quite ready for that…
When competition is ‘forced’ – be it an ‘everybody has to’ science fair or ‘my parents made me’ sporting event – I have not seen as good results: it’s hard to force passion and interest.
When competition is ‘choice’ – be it a spelling bee, a provincial basketball team, an art show, etc – I have found both the interest of the learner to increase, and the descriptive feedback (aka criticism at times) is better received – especially when the passion is driving ‘them’ to ‘get better’.
After all, if we seek 10,000 hours (yes there is an article questioning this – questioning is in itself a form of competition: http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20121114-gladwells-10000-hour-rule-myth )of practice in pursuit of mastery, it better be the individuals choice! Might be why I spent closer to 10 000 hours reading rather than … spelling.